In recent years historians have realized as never before the complexity of the American Revolution and that its roots stretch far back into the earlier days. To weigh fairly the different causes and factors, geographic, economic, social, political, and religious is a difficult task, and there is still controversy as to the emphasis which each should have.
One factor which was recognized by contemporary writers as especially significant but which, until recent years, has been touched but lightly by later authors is the religious. Men of the time asserted that the dissenting clergy and especially the Puritan clergy of New England were among the chief agitators of the Revolution and, after it began, among the most zealous and successful in keeping it alive. Similar statements have been made by later writers and certain of the more prominent clergy, especially Mayhew, Cooper, and Chauncey, of Boston, have been mentioned frequently as Revolutionary leaders. A few of the more famous political sermons have been collected and republished. Biographies, town histories, histories of American literature, etc., have given us bits about the work of this or that individual and have discussed, to some extent, his political theories. Among modern historians Cross in his careful study of the project of an Anglican Episcopate, Van Tyne in his studies on the American Revolution, and J. T. Adams in his first two volumes on New England history are especially notable for their emphasis upon the significance of the religious factor and the work of the clergy. But the first deals with one phase only of the subject, and the limits of Van Tyne’s single volume and short article preclude any detailed treatment. Adams, although he gives great weight to the clergy, especially during the seventeenth century, does not recognize sufficiently the part they played in teaching political theory to the people both before and after 1763 and in giving to the theories religious sanction, nor does he emphasize sufficiently the bearing of the ecclesiastical quarrels and religious movements of the eighteenth century upon the development of a spirit of independence, a love of liberty, and the use of arguments with which to support it.
In short, the intimate relation of the New England minister to the thought and life of eighteenth-century New England has never been adequately developed. That is the purpose of this study: first, to make clear the similarity, the identity of Puritan theology and fundamental political thought; second, to show how the New England clergy preserved, extended, and popularized the essential doctrines of political philosophy, thus making familiar to every church-going New Englander long before 1763 not only the doctrines of natural right, the social contract, and the right of resistance but also the fundamental principle of American constitutional law, that government, like its citizens, is bounded by law and when it transcends its authority it acts illegally. The author believes that here can be traced a direct line of descent from seventeenth-century philosophy to the doctrines underlying the American Revolution and the making of written constitutions. It is hoped that the study may explain, in some measure, why these theories were so widely held, so dearly cherished, and so deeply inwrought into American constitutional doctrine...
This classic includes the following chapters:
I. The Eighteenth-Century Minister—His Power and His Learning
II. The Legalism of Theology and Church Polity
III. Concepts of Government
IV. Theories Concerning Rulers in Church and State
V. Political Philosophy and Ecclesiastical Controversy Before 1743
VI. Political Philosophy and Ecclesiastical Controversy: 1743-1763
VII. Loyalty and Resistance to England: 1754-1766
VIII. Keeping Alive the Flame: 1766-1774
IX. Resistance at All Costs: 1774-1776
X. The Making of Constitutions
XI. Varied Services During the War